Super-quick, simplified guide to understand some basics before you walk in a meeting with your web developer
What to know before finding a web designer.
It seems one the biggest milestones for starting a business these days is having a website! (Don’t get bogged down on a website! I’ve written another article on what type of website, if required at all, you should develop)
Most business owners are not very tech savvy and it is important to understand the bare basics of the technology for a website, before you pick-up the phone and start getting quotations.
I’ve got plenty of experience developing websites (since I was 15), and feel qualified to point out a few facts about the “web design” industry.
First thing’s first, let’s quickly talk about the difference between a web developer and a web designer. In theory, a web designer’s job is to design the website layout, colours, templates and graphics and later on pass it to a developer (Most of the time the designer is also the developer). A developer’s job is to take the design idea, and implement it. However, most of the time, these two terms are used as one. For the sake of this article, and to keep things simple, we will assume a web developer is the same as a web designer.
There are lots of respected, well-educated and honest web designers out there. However, these days anyone can develop a website by having as little as 1 hours of online training. There are also lots of free packages out there which will install a fully dynamic website in less than 1 minutes automatically. I’ve seen many “web designers” charging crazy amount for these free templates and requiring the client to actually do 90% of the work themselves.
Even most respected web developers will start with one of the free packages available on the internet. It is madness to re-invent the wheel. Currently the most popular platforms are:
- WordPress: Usually used as a blog platform. You also have the option to add a shop to this package by installing one of the many free modules available.
- Magento and OpenCart : ecommerce platforms for creating a shop.
All other packages available on the internet work in a similar fashion. So we will use the above examples to explain how these packages work. These methods apply to pretty much any other free CMS / CMF / ecommerce platform out there,
Few basic terms to understand before we dive deeper into the discussion
Static Website: These are websites that the user (you) cannot change and you will need to edit the code / contact the website designer to make even the slightest text changes. No one that I know of uses Static websites anymore. In fact, to design a Static website these days will take longer than using a free package which is fully dynamic!
Dynamic Website: As you have probably guessed, a dynamic website is a website where the user (you) can make simple changes such as, changing the text on the home page, about us page, adding new pages, changing menu text , creating a product, changing product prices, adding new photos etc.
CMS / CMF: Content Management System (CMS) is basically a dynamic website system which allows the user (you) to login via a portal, and add / edit / remove content. You can also add new users to manage your content. Or add customers etc. A CMF, or a Content Management Framework, does the same job but also has extra feature at the disposal of the web developer to create more customised content and systems.
eCommerce platform: Similar to a CMS/CMF with the extra capability to sell straight out the box. You can usually add eCommerce capabilities to most popular CMS/CMF’s out there by installing a simple free module.
WordPress or similar CMS
WordPress is probably the easiest CMS a developer can install. The installation takes literally 1 minute (On most modern shared servers) and you will have a blank website, with fully functional portal for the user (you), capabilities to add new pages, new posts and a default design template in a minute!
There are 100s of top quality free design templates to choose from. If a web designer keeps changing your initial design, and suggest different designs, it’s probably because she / he already has a template in mind and does not want to design a template from scratch.
Saying that, most templates will need some degree of customisation to meet your company’s branding. These are usually fairly simple for the developer to carry out.
Now, let’s perform a simple Google search for “Free WordPress Templates”
Let’s select one of these free templates. It will take us 1 minute to install and activate one of these templates.
Now to setup 3 pages (Home, About us, Contact us) from any template you’ve chosen above, will literally take 10 minutes if you have all the text ready.
To add photos and get the home page look similar to the template example, may take the developer another 1-2 hours. As some templates need the installation of further free modules.
To add a banner on the top, create a contact form and add a map on the contact page will take another 1 hours tops if all the images are provided to the developer in the correct size and format.
Installing anti-spam filters: 10 minutes.
Installing a newsletter module, to gather customers email address upon landing on your page via a pop-up, 1-2 hour, including setting up your account (Make sure the developer passes all the newsletter information to you upon finishing the setup) , creating the pop-up form (Free module included for doing so), and linking the form to the mailing list
Customising menu colours and basic colouring scheme, e.g. footer and header: 1 hour.
All in all, if you are after a simple website, with a basic template and only a few pages of text, potentially you could do it yourself via WordPress and some YouTube videos.
Magento or OpenCart (or similar)
Ecommerce platforms are almost the same as the above example however, they are more complicated to setup and need more configuration. For a similar setup to above, you will probably need to 2x the time that takes to do all the above
In general, you need a higher level of experience to setup Magento or OpenCart correctly.
What you need to provide to the web developer
The web designer cannot perform magic and will need to have all the material in the correct format, otherwise, she or he will need to spend more time (More cost for you) optimising the photos etc.
Before you get started make sure you ask the web developer to provide a list of required material, in exact format, size etc.
Typical material you will need to provide to the developer
- Photos to match exact dimensions and specifications as required by the developer. It is YOUR responsibility to provide every single photo and logo used throughout the website. It is your responsibility to provide all product photos and descriptions. You may need to hire a photographer. Speak to the developer.
- Content in text format, for all pages, including product description, pricing, company address and information, terms and conditions, legal document etc.
- Typography guidelines. Make sure you provide Font Type, Font Family, Font Colour, etc for , Headers, Product Text, Title text, etc Do your research first. The web developer will choose a default font and colour if you do not do so, and may charge your extra for changing.
- Branding guide. Basically similar to above, including your companies theme colours etc
- SEO text (Search Engine Optimisation text), these are the keywords and titles that will increase your ranking on Google or similar search engines. Make sure you know what your target market is. This is VERY important. You need to make sure the content on the website is actually optimised to reach your targeted audience. Consult with an SEO specialist if you are not sure, or read an SEO book. Most books out there have great information on SEO. I’ve also published several articles about marketing and SEO. Check them out.
- Website domain name (Do a quick search to see what is available on ukreg.com )
- Website hosting option. Most developers will offer you a hosting option, however, I strongly suggest you purchase your own domain name and hosting. This way you have full control over your branding in the event of the developer going rogue. Most hosting companies these days provide excellent free advice. I use SITEGROUND myself I strongly recommend them. With FAST and quick online chat to help you out. They do offer a free domain name, however, I will purchase my domain name from a separate Domain Registrar to have full control, as you will not be covered by the 30 day money back guarantee if you claim your “free domain”. Beware of the free domain schemes. You may end up losing your main domain if you decide to cancel your plan with a hosting company.
Ask the developer what other information is required. Your work will be delayed if you do not have these material ready.
Where and how do developers install these packages?
In order to have a website, you will first need a Domain Name. This is something like www.yourcompanyname.com. In order to choose a domain name, you will first check to see if that domain is available for registering. Bear in mind, these days you can use many extentions such as .co.uk , .travel .blog .geek etc
There are many services out there that perform these free searches, including www.ukreg.com which I use. After finding a domain you like, click on register, enter your info, pay, and confirm your email address. Now you are the owner of a domain name.
Now you will need a web hosting to link your domain name to.
Again, there are plenty of hustings out there as I discussed before. Find one, pay and use their online chat to get help linking your domain name to the hosting. DO NOT get the Free Domain Name Offer! As explained before.
Most hosting companies provide an easy 1 click App to install WordPress/Magento etc within your Hosting Admin Centre / CPanel. If not, you will need to download the package from the CMS/CMF provider website.
I will not go in further technical detail. I have written another article going in more detail on technical web development. If you need more information, please leave a comment of send me a message and I will try to put the link to the relevant articles to answer your specific question.
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